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Understanding Health Care Reform: 4 Steps for Talking to Employees

HNI Compliance Advisor

understanding health care reformTo say the the Affordable Care Act is keeping employers on their toes is a bit of an understatement. Understanding health care reform — and getting compliant is a significant undertaking for many organizations.

Meanwhile, employees are looking to their managers and human resources departments for insight on how the law will effect them. It's likely they've heard different interpretations of the Affordable Care Act from different media channels, friends, family, and co-workers.

Remember how the telephone game works? There's a good chance that somewhere in the chain of communication, someone got something wrong. Your have an opportunity to set your employees straight. Here are four steps to communicate the ins and outs of the Affordable Care Act:

1.) Know the Law [Understanding Health Care Reform Starts at the Top]

Are you confident about your firm's compliance with the Affordable Care Act? Do you have a deep bench of experts who can answer questions about the law? If your answer to either of these questions is "no," it's time to start your homework!

The White House launched the Health Care Changes Wizard on Aug. 1. The site is targeted at employers that want to discover how changes specifically apply to their type and size of business. This time line on the health insurance marketplace (a one-page PDF) also is useful.

HNI also offers many blog posts and workshop recordings on health care reform and the Affordable Care Act.

Obviously, before you can help employees understand health care reform, you need to feel confident about your knowledge of the law! Understanding health care reform may take some time, but it's worth it.

2.) Plan Your Message

For maximum communications effectiveness, planning your message involves a three-part attack:

  • ID audiences. Your workforce is diverse in age, expertise, attention span, and comfort with technology. Identifying your audiences is the most important part of successful communication. Take your time and think about what each audiences needs to know — and what will be too much information.
  • Craft content. At the very least, you should address costs, care, and coverage options for each audience. Keep communication simple and jargon free. Make sure the message is customized for each employee segment. Avoid politics; stick to the facts.
  • Choose channels and deliver. Consider sharing health care reform updates via social media (maybe a YouTube video), intranet, or e-newsletter. A paper cheat sheet or sit-down small group conversations with key leadership are other options. The medium is the message, so make sure you choose the correct channel for each audience.

3.) Anticipate the Response

Be prepared with FAQs, websites, and cheat sheets to share with employees. They will no doubt have specific questions about how health care reform applies to them.

Consider developing hypothetical employee personas to explain how the law could affect different types of employees. For instance, one persona could be Mark, a healthy, 30-something professional who carries health coverage benefits for his young family. Another persona could be Mary, a baby boomer with a chronic health condition who sees many health specialists.

These pretend employees likely have different questions about costs and health care related to the Affordable Care Act. Address those questions and share the answers with an employee audience. Aim to make the message relatable.

4.) Carry Wellness Forward

Roll health care reform messaging into information about open enrollment. And while you're on the subject of wellness with your employees, promote your health programs and resources. Now is a good time to reinvigorate interest in workforce wellness. Healthy employees are happy and more productive employees.

Having a plan to communicate information about health care reform will break through confusion over changes to health plans. Head off employees' anxiety over changes with thoughtful and effective messaging. Understanding health care reform is a path you will walk together.


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